Aug. 22, 2017 – – Pennsylvania Congressman Dwight Evans, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, was a long way from Philadelphia on Aug. 4 as he toured Travaille & Phippen’s orchards and facilities in rural San Joaquin County but the more he learned, the more he wanted to know about California’s dynamic almond industry.
Almond Alliance President Kelly Covello participated in the tour and said Rep. Evans was “frank about his lack of knowledge about the almond industry but he expressed a desire to learn as much as he could. His district does not contain any farms but he understands the connection between the food on his plate and agriculture. He encouraged the almond industry and agriculture in general to enhance our efforts to tell our story to consumers so they better understand where their food comes from, the technology used, and the industry’s sustainable practices.”
Rep. Evans was part of a House Agriculture Committee panel that conducted a Farm Bill listening session in Modesto on Aug. 5. Prior to the listening session, Rep. Evans and several committee staff were taken on a tour, arranged by the Almond Board of California, of the Travaille & Phippen operation in Manteca. Tour participants included Covello, Bunnie Ibrahim and Julie Adams of the Almond Board, Ag Committee staff members Stacy Revels, Troy Phillips and Keith Jones, and Tracey Chow of Rep. Jeff Denham’s staff. The tour was led by Kimi Phippen and Nick Gatzman.
Several topics were covered on both the tour and an early morning breakfast briefing. The group expressed considerable interest in how almonds are produced, the way rootstock is selected and why there are so many almond varieties.
Other key highlights:
* Pollination and the quantity of hives coming into an orchard. Tour participants were surprised by the cost of pollination and how many hives it takes to produce the crop, concerned by the fact bee loss is still happening and interest in the new varieties that are self-pollinating.
* They were impressed by the technology used both in the orchard and in the plant, including irrigation methods, drones and sorting machinery.
* Rep. Evans said consumers need to have a better understanding of where food comes from and ag needs to do a better job in getting its story told. He was very impressed with the story that can be told about a multi-generational family business and from the point of view of the technology used to produce almonds.
* Participants learned almonds use crop insurance is used primarily due to frost concerns, but that if it’s not subsidized, it would be too expensive to buy.
Covello told the group that the Farm Bill is important to the California almond industry in the areas of trade, conservation, bioenergy, technical assistance, research and block grants. She pointed out, “We have seen no funding increases in several important titles in the last two Farm Bills while the challenges facing agriculture have exploded.”
Reflecting on the tour’s value, Covello explained, “Finding common ground with urban legislators will be key to the almond industry’s efforts to educate Congress about the many implications the next Farm Bill will have on our industry,” explained Covello. “These type of tours are invaluable in raising awareness to urban legislators about the many complex issues facing the almond industry. We appreciate that folks like Nick Gatzman and Kimi Phippen take the time to conduct these tours. The benefits are immense.”